Mare a Mare Nord, Day 1: Moriani Plage -Ipenti

It has been six years already since we have set foot on this magnificent island. Back then we were in Corsica to hike – what people consider to be – the heaviest and technically most difficult GR route in Europe: the famous GR20. At that time we even had the privilege to hike through the “Cirque de Solitude, a nerve-racking traverse over steep mountain flanks. Even for us, experienced hikers, this “cirque” gave us the necessary knots in our stomachs. But it’s the “Cirque de Solitude” what made the famous GR20 so famous. You have to descend along impressive rock formations via chains, ladders and steps. After that, you need to depend on all fours to lift yourself through a “couloir” back up again. Today the GR20 is unfortunately no longer what it used to be. The “cirque” has been stripped of its chains, ladders and steps and is permanently closed for adventurous hikers. But how unfortunate that closure might be, it is perfectly understandable. Because the renowned “cirque” has consumed a bit too many lives. When we were there six years ago, one person was killed. A few years later, Wim crossed the GR20 a second time with a friend of his. That year three more people fell to their deaths in the abyss. It was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. And since then the “cirque” is no longer there. Unfortunately …

But this year we aren’t here for the GR20 or its “cirque”. This year we want to hike the so-called “Mare a Mare Nord”. A track running from the east to the west coast of the island. Normally the trip covers ten hiking days, but we need to get the job done in just eight. A challenge in itself.

The first challenge of the trip however, is already presented to us even before we have taken the very first step on the route. After the train has brought us to Casa Mozza, we still have to get to Moriani Plage, the starting point of the trail some twenty kilometers away. We want to take the bus, but a stranded traveler in the bus shelter gives us little hope. He tells us that the bus that had to pass an hour ago never showed up. We fear that our bus might have taken an unexpected day off as well today and decide to switch horses to get to Moriani Plage.

I notice a small pub and I step inside. There are a few men sitting at the bar. I ask if someone wants to take us to Moriani Plage. But one look at their drinks already tells me enough. It might be just noon, but these men are already enjoying a well-filled glass of Ricard. Or even stronger. One of the men jokes that he would be happy to bring us, but that it would be zigzag then. Mmmh, better not. So we settle for option two: hitchhiking.

We take a tactical post at the side of the road. We expect little from this impulsive action. Wim has already hitchhiked once before, to eventually order a much too expensive taxi out of pure misery. I, on the other hand, have never hitchhiked before. I stretch out my arm and stick out my thumb. Somehow it gives me quite an uncomfortable feeling.
Five cars pass by. I lower my thumb and wonder if we are not a bit naive to believe that someone is actually going to pick us up. But right at that point a car stops in front of us. The driver tells us he can take us ten kilometers further down the road. Perfect, then we’re already half way there!

Ten kilometers further we follow the same procedure as before: stretched arm, stuck out thumb, big smile. And again we find a ride within two minutes! A friendly man drops us off exactly at our starting point. We are eager to go greet the sea. Let’s get this adventure started!

From the coastline we can see the mountain peaks of the island, where our route leads to. Well, we actually can’t really see the peaks, because dark clouds are surrounding them. Only the mountain’s shoulders remain visible to the eye. Via an ascending asphalt road we walk out of the village. A man warns us for the turning weather. “Attention dans les montagnes” (be cautious in the mountains), he says while pointing his finger at some jet-black clouds. His warning turns out to be justified, because only a few moments later it starts to thunder badly and we need to put on our rain jackets.

In no time our path has been transformed into a river. We try to hide underneath a tree, until he also has to realize that his foliage is not able to withstand this much rain. We move further and let ourselves be soaked down to our underwear.

Around noon we hope to find drier places in a church, where we also want to have our picnic. But the impressively big entrance door is closed. I knock on the red painted oak door, as if I expect the holy virgin Mary herself would turn up to open the door to us. But the gate remains closed. And my underwear remains wet.

I point Wim at an open tomb in the cemetery. We doubt whether it would be desecration to take refuge here, but then I figure that the souls that our buried here would probably even appreciate a little visit. On the engraved white stones I read that the tomb was built for the Marchi family.

The tomb dates from somewhere around the Second World War. Because the oldest grave is from a man who died in 1947. In addition to him, a dozen other spaces are provided to offer his family members a final resting place. In the meantime, most of the graves have been filled, including one very recently since it has no white marble stone yet, but is only covered with a wooden plank. The flowers in front of the grave have already wilted, but two burning candles show that the pain of parting is not yet fully digested.

We enjoy our picnic in this place which in our eyes is not lugubrious, but rather serene. While sitting here, we have sincere respect for the Marchi family, but we are also telling them funny jokes. If there would still be life after death, I am sure we have given them a hilarious day today. We ask the Marchi family for the weather to improve but the expected sudden blue skies with bright sun rays falling right on the tomb remains out. Although the Marchi’s must have done something because the downpour turns into drizzle, which gives us sufficient courage to go on. Sincerely I thank the Marchi’s for their hospitality. I fold my hands and bow my head out of respect while I exit the tomb.

The next hour it remains relatively dry, which we credit completely to the help of the Marchi family. Along a narrow path we climb steadily through a beautiful green forest. The mountain flank is so overgrown and wet that we feel a bit like being in a jungle. The trail leads us through an open plain, where the path is covered by endless green ferns. Their leaves wave back and forth when we inevitably kick off the rain drops with our feet. The drops slowly seep through our shoes and make our socks clammy.

A family of wild pigs is startled when they suddenly come face to face with us. At first they run away. After which the mother halts and comes to stand between us and her three little ones. She apparently feels heroic because after a short hesitation she runs straight in our direction. But she quite quickly reconsiders that decision, after which she tells her kids to flee into the woods. With loud screams she makes her way out.

After this encounter, we are confronted with wild pigs a few times more. But also grazing cows and horses look surprised when we step into “their” territory.

The prayers of the Marchi family have ran out after two hours. Again the rain gushes down from heaven. The river that cuts the valley in half swells up. Where she normally brightens up the landscape with her clear water, she now looks dirty and brown from all the sand she carries away from high up in the mountains.

We climb out of the valley and end up in Ipenti. We don’t hesitate for a second to take a room in the only gite that the small village has. We hang our soaked clothes up to dry, although we know for sure that they will still be wet tomorrow.

 

The host sets the table for us, after which his wife puts a delicious menu on the table. Mainly the appetizer leaves a good impression: a plate of delicatessen with different types of dried sausage. The sausage really is the best one I ever tasted. The hostess proudly tells us that it’s home-made sausage from their own pigs.

While the rain keeps pouring down we crawl into our bed, hoping that the Marchi family will try their best to negotiate again with the weather gods up there…

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